Student Ownership and Writing Choices

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-9-36-22-pmWriting offers choices for writers.  What kind of tool: pen, pencil, marker? What kind of paper: lined, unlined, partially lined?  Will you use a digital tool? What app? What device? Then, there’s the choice of writing space, process, topic, genre, and mentors. As you can see writing and tools choice can be overwhelming to a writer.

Tools and Ownership

Choices are important to writers and their stories.  It’s the choices the author makes that give the story its unique feel.  Learning how and when to use an assortment of tools and techniques is the challenge of all writers.   

I teach our youngest writers, but when it comes to making writing choices, I don’t think young writers are that much different from adult writers.  When a new tool is introduced, I am intrigued and eager to try it out, just like my students.  And like my students, it’s through this experimentation I learn the reach and strength of the tools available to me.  I have to remember to allow the writers the freedom to explore before I swoop in with the “You know…, you could…, or the “You might want to…”  Instead, I try (and it is HARD sometimes) to let the students come to me. “Did you know this (insert tool) does this?  Or, “Where can I get a new (insert tool) this one is (broke, out, or needs).” If I wait long enough, they’ll come to me because no one tool is perfect.  

Who’s in Control?

With so many (and ever changing) options at our fingertips, I want my students to learn how to control the tools. We have a motto in our room, “If the tool is telling you what to do, you aren’t in charge of your learning. You tell the tool what to do!”  

So when many of my writers discovered the background and sticker options in Pixie (remember I said this was hard), I stepped back, bit my tongue and waited.  During conferring I asked questions like, “How does this background fit your message?” or “How much time have you had to write today?” because I knew most of the time was spent searching for the just right background or sticker (which never seemed to quite go with the story).  And when students began asking me to spell words for them so they could type the word in the search bar, I reminded them of the linking charts in the room to help spell unknown words. I am not sure who was feeling the frustration more, the kids or me, but still, I waited.  

When the students brought writing with illustrations composed of stickers and pre-made background images to share, I avoided calling on them to share.   Instead, I chose students whose work showed ownership.

Writer’s Ownership

Then it happened!  A student came to the share circle with a story created in Pixie complete with precise illustrations and no sign of backgrounds or stickers!  When I spotted this, I asked him to share.  He projected the story on the large screen from his iPad.  The students watched and listened.  I asked the students if they had any questions for the author.  “How did you make your picture? It looks like we are going in your room?” The author beamed and the questions poured out one after another.  I paused the questions, and I asked the student if he would teach the class how to draw in Pixie tomorrow?  The class cheered at this idea, and the writer nodded excitedly!  

Leading the Way

screen-shot-2017-01-24-at-9-37-47-pmThis writer taught us, line by line, how we could draw rooms, choose line size, texture, and color. He showed us how drawing shapes on Pixie could create houses, animals, and people just as they do on paper.  Mason showed us how to quickly erase and recreate and how to fill in a background color all in one click!  The writers watched in awe and called out requests as Mason illustrated.  

As our time was drawing to a close, I asked, “Who is controlling this story?”  In choral response, the class responded, “Mason, he can make anything, and he knows all the buttons!”